Pendulum

Animation of anchor escapement, one of the most widely used escapements in pendulum clocks

Gridiron pendulums became so associated with good quality that, to this day, many ordinary clock pendulums have decorative 'fake' gridirons that don't actually have any temperature compensation function.

Pendulums are affected by changes in gravitational acceleration, which varies by as much as 0.5% at different locations on Earth, so precision pendulum clocks have to be recalibrated after a move. Even moving a pendulum clock to the top of a tall building can cause it to lose measurable time from the reduction in gravity.

If these variations in the escapement's force cause changes in the pendulum's width of swing (amplitude), this will cause corresponding slight changes in the period, since (as discussed at top) a pendulum with a finite swing is not quite isochronous. Therefore, the goal of traditional escapement design is to apply the force with the proper profile, and at the correct point in the pendulum's cycle, so force variations have no effect on the pendulum's amplitude. This is called an isochronous escapement.

The difference between clock pendulums and gravimeter pendulums is that to measure gravity, the pendulum's length as well as its period has to be measured. The period of freeswinging pendulums could be found to great precision by comparing their swing with a precision clock that had been adjusted to keep correct time by the passage of stars overhead. In the early measurements, a weight on a cord was suspended in front of the clock pendulum, and its length adjusted until the two pendulums swung in exact synchronism. Then the length of the cord was measured. From the length and the period, g could be calculated from equation (1).

The seconds pendulum, a pendulum with a period of two seconds so each swing takes one second
Borda & Cassini's 1792 measurement of the length of the seconds pendulum

To get around this problem, the early researchers above approximated an ideal simple pendulum as closely as possible by using a metal sphere suspended by a light wire or cord. If the wire was light enough, the center of oscillation was close to the center of gravity of the ball, at its geometric center. This "ball and wire" type of pendulum wasn't very accurate, because it didn't swing as a rigid body, and the elasticity of the wire caused its length to change slightly as the pendulum swung.

Reversible pendulums (known technically as "convertible" pendulums) employing Kater's principle were used for absolute gravity measurements into the 1930s.

A pendulum in which the rod is not vertical but almost horizontal was used in early seismometers for measuring Earth tremors. The bob of the pendulum does not move when its mounting does, and the difference in the movements is recorded on a drum chart.

Two pendulums with the same period coupled by suspending them from a common support string. The oscillation alternates between the two.

The value of g reflected by the period of a pendulum varies from place to place. The gravitational force varies with distance from the center of the Earth, i.e. with altitude - or because the Earth's shape is oblate, g varies with latitude. A more important cause of this reduction in g at the equator is because the equator is spinning at one revolution per day, so the acceleration by the gravitational force is partially canceled there by the centrifugal force.